Los Angeles Office
Los Angeles Sexual Harassment Lawyer
Sexual harassment and workplace discrimination often go hand-in-hand. Over 80% of women and 40% of men report experiencing some form of sexual harassment or assault, but studies indicate only 10% of sexual harassment victims file formal complaints. Most employees subjected to workplace harassment do nothing, leave their jobs, or covertly avoid the harasser rather than risk retaliation. While speaking up about sexual harassment can result in temporary workplace hostilities and potential pushback, state and federal laws both anticipate and protect claimants standing up for their workplace rights.
If you're sexually harassed in L.A., whether through inappropriate propositions, sexual behaviors, or subliminal threats, you're not alone. Standing up to sexual harassers now may protect future claimants and validate previous complaints. Our Los Angeles firm provides dedicated legal services to victims of sexual harassment and associated gender discrimination. Confidentially discuss your workplace rights with our sexual harassment protection lawyers online or by calling.
Three Main Types of Workplace Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment takes many forms but is generally defined as unwanted verbal or physical advances of a sexual nature occurring within the workplace. It might also include offensive communications, such as cartoons or derogatory language, directed at your gender or sexual orientation. Harassers don’t need to understand that their behaviors constitute sexual harassment. In fact, many offenders mistakenly believe they're engaging in wanted or otherwise harmless conduct. Employers must take immediate action to remedy sexual harassment, which may include firing or transferring the offending employee, or face personal liability for continued misconduct. Most sexual harassment cases fall into one of the following three categories.
Sexual Misconduct and Sex Crimes
Sexual harassment may involve multiple minor instances of prohibited conduct or one serious event. Sex crimes committed in the workplace generally qualify as sexual harassment and may entitle claimants to additional civil damages under California tort laws. Criminal sexual misconduct constituting harassment often includes:
- Sexual assault and battery (unsolicited sexual touching)
- Battery (offensive touching, such as grabbing hair)
- Threatening sexual harm
- Blackmailing or extorting claimants for sexual favors
- Indecent exposure
- Forwarding unsolicited pornography
- Texting, emailing, or messaging unsolicited sexual photographs
Attempting or threatening this conduct, which may include pressing women against walls, blocking doorways, or waiting in parking garages, also carries criminal penalties. Such sexual misconduct could result in criminal charges and civil liability against the offender and employer.
Quid Pro Quo Harassment
This more notable form of sexual harassment often involves superiors (including managers, supervisors, and corporate owners) who request sexual favors from employees in exchange for benefits or based on threats. Common examples include managers threatening to file negative reviews if the claimant doesn’t agree to a date, corporate owners subliminally threatening the employee’s future with the company if she doesn’t "loosen up," or supervisors offering extra breaks if the employee engages in sexual conduct. Such harassment could occur in the office or outside the work environment, such as through Facebook messages.
Many victims choose not to report quid pro quo harassment to human resources or upper management for fear of retaliation and redirected blame. Co-owners and management teams frequently protect one another, further perpetuating the harassment and distress. In these cases, claimants may work with quid pro quo harassment counsel to file confidential complaints directly to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Doing so triggers an investigation. If an employer retaliates during this process, a prima facie retaliatory conduct case is created.
Hostile Work Environments
If the sexual harassment occurs after work, such as coworkers sending inappropriate Facebook messages, or doesn’t outright qualify as a sex crime, claimants may still file hostile work environment claims. Most sexual harassment cases also create hostile work environments, as victims frequently suffer from workplace anxiety and isolation. In California, hostile work environments can include the following:
- Inappropriate sexual innuendos, derogatory comments, jokes, catcalls, and sexual slurs
- Comments about the claimant's physical appearance, clothing, or sexuality
- Sexually inappropriate and derogatory cartoons, drawings, videos, and photographs
- Blocking doorways, stalking, or physical intimidation
- Unwanted sexual advances and relationship requests, especially after declining
- Sexual gestures and non-verbal innuendos
- Unwanted physical touching with direct or indirect sexual undertones
- Direct or indirect threats and intimidation tactics
- Spreading sexually-based rumors
These behaviors may qualify as sexual harassment even without underlying criminal conduct. For example, it's not generally considered harassment to ask coworkers out to dinner once (unless otherwise prohibited by corporate policy). It is sexual harassment, however, for managers to do so and imply that the employee would receive favoritism for agreeing. It might also create workplace hostility if your coworker continues asking you out, crowding, or otherwise stalking you. These subtler behaviors have begun replacing outright quid pro quo harassment, such as requesting sexual favors, but still create uncomfortable work environments in L.A. Don't assume you've misread the situation. If you feel uncomfortable at work, you may be experiencing unlawful harassment. Contact our firm for a confidential consultation to discuss your concerns today.
Distinguishing Lawful Behavior From Sexual Harassment in L.A.
Many victims of workplace sexual harassment question whether they have viable claims in non-criminal cases. To qualify as sexual harassment, the offender's conduct must be unlawful or unwanted. Otherwise, lawful conduct, such as asking a coworker for a date or walking her to her car, can qualify as sexual harassment if the behavior continues after the coworker directly or indirectly expresses discomfort. However, guessing that the conduct is wanted isn't enough. Many hostile work environment claims stem from behavior one party deems acceptable that the other party considers harassing. Coworkers with diverse life experiences, cultures, and religious convictions often interpret behaviors differently. What's sexually appropriate for one party may create excessive workplace anxiety for another.
Lawyers generally recommend speaking with human resources about subliminal behaviors that create workspace discomfort. Many situations can be resolved through internal mediation, often by explaining proper workplace etiquette, employment policies, and coworker discomfort to the offender. This is an important first step when sexual harassment claims fall into legally grey areas. A dedicated Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyer can help employees distinguish between lawful and unlawful workplace conduct and monitor developing harassment claims. If employers refuse to take action or the behavior continues after victims express themselves, this may support hostile work environment claims.
Laws Prohibiting Sexual Harassment and Protecting Victims of Workplace Gender Discrimination
Various federal and state laws protect employees against workplace sexual harassment and associated claims, such as sex-based discrimination. The California Code of Regulations (2 CCR § 11019) directly prohibits physical, verbal, or visual sexual harassment in state workplaces, including aiding and abetting sexual harassment (2 CCR § 11020), which means assisting, encouraging, coercing, or soliciting another to engage in harassing behaviors. It also includes hiding or destroying evidence of such behaviors during state harassment investigations, such as coworkers cannot lie to protect their friends. Employees cannot waive these essential protections in employment contracts, but employers may enforce stricter gender protection policies. Title 9 of the California Penal Code further criminalizes the unlawful sexual conduct underlying many L.A. sexual harassment claims. The experienced lawyers at our firm might help eligible claimants file criminal charges, submit state discrimination claims, and ultimately hold employers, offending employees, and coworkers encouraging harassment financially liable.
Many sexual harassment claims also support gender-based discrimination cases. Federal Equal Opportunity Employment (“EEO”) laws and Cal. Gov. Code § 12940 prohibit gender, marital status, sexual identity, sexual orientation, and gender expression discrimination. Such discrimination often occurs in quid pro quo sexual harassment cases and may include:
- Reducing hours and manipulating shifts
- Terminating, laying off, refusing to hire, or demoting
- Refusing to provide earned raises and promotions
- Altering job descriptions and responsibilities
- Changing or denying benefits
- Subjecting employees to unnecessary private meetings and employment reviews
- Selectively enforcing dress codes and regulations
- Threatening to engage in these behaviors
Behaviors exploiting young and single employees, such as tailoring their responsibilities to prevent promotions (keeping them close to offenders) or requesting they wear more attractive clothing, often qualify as both sexual harassment and unlawful discrimination in Los Angeles. Sexual harassment attorneys could help claimants recover damages for both claims in federal or state court.
Understanding and Anticipating Employment Retaliation in Los Angeles
Many employees don't speak up about potential sexual harassment out of fear of losing their jobs or creating workplace hostility. Supervisors and human resource personnel may feign concern only to convince victims not to trigger state investigations. Many victims of workplace sexual harassment don't pursue their claims further, as L.A. housing costs mean many employees live paycheck-to-paycheck. Although it's unlawful to retaliate against employees for filing sexual harassment complaints, it occurs in many cases.
Victims of workplace gender discrimination and harassment should discuss their options with local sexual harassment counsel. In many cases, it’s better to trigger confidential state investigations than handle these claims internally. Filing good faith discrimination litigation or harassment claims triggers certain anti-retaliation protections and may expedite the financial recovery process. In California, retaliation includes the following employer actions:
- Creating hostile work environments, such as engaging in oppressive and intimidating conduct designed to punish victimized employees
- Transferring or demoting sexual harassment victims
- Filing disciplinary reports or falsely accusing employees of poor performance
- Terminating, laying off, and refusing to rehire employees
- Reducing the employee’s pay, hours, overtime, shifts, and benefits
- Suspending or otherwise isolating the employee
- Ostracizing or blacklisting harassment claimants, such as implying the claimant is troubling and disruptive to the work environment
- Making threats against immigrants
Claimants may recover additional financial compensation, including lost wages and punitive damages, for retaliation in L.A. Further, victims subject to intense retaliation creating unbearable work environments may quit and file constructive wrongful termination claims. Our firm might represent eligible claimants without any upfront cost throughout the claims, retaliation, and litigation process.
Options for Recovering Compensation for Sexual Harassment and Related Labor Violations in L.A.
Making a sexual harassment claim often places undue stress on victims and their families. Claimants may fear giving uncomfortable statements, reliving months of abuse, or suffering from apathy and retaliation. For these reasons, sexual harassment professionals often recommend retaining legal counsel before speaking with supervisors or H.R. or filing state-based complaints. Having representation adds a layer of legal protection to employees by triggering the right to have counsel present during most interviews. Employers also frequently refrain from engaging in retaliatory conduct when an attorney is closely monitoring the claims.
With legal assistance, L.A. sexual harassment claimants might engage in private internal mediation, arbitrate harassment compensation claims, demand state intervention, and file civil litigation. Financial damages for sexual harassment and related claims, including discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination, may include:
- The value of lost earnings, including wages, bonuses, commissions, and reduced hours
- The value of lost benefits, such as lost 401K contributions and healthcare premium payments due to unlawful termination
- Back pay for lost raises, promotions, and advancement opportunities
- The cost of mental health counseling and related medical bills
- Additional personal costs incurred after unlawful retaliation
- Compensation for emotional distress and pain
- Interest on back pay
- Punitive (punishment) damages
Many cases involving intentional conduct (such as retaliation, sex crimes, quid pro quo harassment, and sexual discrimination) may provide for additional damages designed to punish the offender and liable employer. Eligible claimants may multiply their calculated damages, such as lost wages, based on the seriousness of the offense and demand punitive compensation. Examples include demanding additional damages for immediately demoting the employee after filing sexual harassment complaints or refusing to remove a coworker the employer knew had harassed women previously. While it may take time, qualified claimants subject to sexual harassment are entitled to protect themselves from future abuse, demand lost wages, and financially punish offenders.
Schedule a Free and Confidential Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Consultation with a Dedicated L.A. Lawyer Today
With our no recovery, no fee guarantee, the compassionate L.A. firm might help victims of gender discrimination, harassment, and wrongful termination recover needed compensation. Standing up for your rights can create a better work environment for you and protect coworkers from future abuse. While most harassment claims involve single women, anyone experiencing workplace sexual harassment due to their gender or sexual identity may demand compensation in Southern California. Confidentially discuss your rights with our L.A. sexual harassment protection lawyers today by calling or scheduling a free consultation online.